Written by Dr Mohjir Baloch for Doctify

For anyone sensitive to spicy foods, chillies might represent pain rather than pain relief. However, the very thing that causes that burning sensation can actually have healing properties.

Pain management specialist, Dr Mohjir Baloch explains exactly how this works below.

What causes nerve pain?

Damaged nerve pain or neuropathic pain can be as a consequence of injury or surgery as well as certain diseases such as shingles, diabetes or HIV.

How does it feel?

Neuropathic pain feels quite different to pain from muscles or joints. Often it can feel like a burning or shooting sensation associated with a change in the sensitivity of the skin to touch.

What is a Capsacin patch used for?

Capsacin patch therapy is used to treat pain from damaged nerves.

So, where do the chilli peppers come in?

Capsacin patch is made from a substance extracted from red chilli peppers that makes them feel hot.

The patch is applied to the area of skin with neuropathic pain for between 30 to 60 minutes and then removed. Following this, a cleansing gel is applied that is then washed off.

How does it work?

The patch works by causing the capsacin to be absorbed through the skin and into the underlying nerves causing  desensitisation of nerve receptors. These receptors are found on the ends of nerves and are usually activated by painful stimuli. However, the capsacin ‘overloads’ these receptors making them less responsive to other painful stimuli hence desensitising the nerve.

Are there any side effects?

Application of the patch is usually well tolerated. Some patients experience a burning or stinging sensation during application and it is common for the skin underlying the patch to become red and sore temporarily.

Some people experience a temporary rise in their blood pressure but this is monitored during the treatment.

How long does it take to work?

Capsacin patch therapy, if successful, can start having a beneficial effect within a few days and continue to be beneficial for several months following a single application.

If sufficiently successful the therapy can be repeated after three months. Often, capsacin patch therapy is used in combination with other treatments for nerve pain such as drugs and physiotherapy.

 


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